Investment summit connects foreign businesses with Kentucky

Published 1:00 am Thursday, June 20, 2019

Boyle County was put on the map for multiple potential foreign business investors recently, during the Select USA Investment Summit.

Jody Lassiter, president and CEO of the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce, was one of Kentucky’s team of economic development leaders and utility company representatives who attended the summit to market the Bluegrass State’s assets to companies from around the globe looking to invest in the U.S.

“This is really one of the most meaningful events that we participate in in tandem with the state and our collaborators from around the state,” Lassiter said.

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The Kentucky contingent split into multiple teams and conducted 27 “calls” with potential investors during the summit.

Two of those calls involved projects from northern Italy — a food-processing company and a bottling manufacturer. They like Kentucky’s central location in the eastern U.S., Lassiter said.

Another call involved an Irish construction company looking to establish a 40-employee “divisional home” in the eastern U.S.

“Those would be high-wage, engineering and construction management jobs,” Lassiter said.

A Turkish company working with photo-voltaic technology was another call. It’s looking to partner with a solar panel installer in the U.S. Lassiter said he let the company know that Danville is home to the second-largest solar panel manufacturer and installer in Kentucky — Wilderness Trace Solar. That led to discussion of potential phone calls or meetings with Wilderness Trace in the future to see what partnerships could be possible.

“We’ve opened that door to see what possibly could be some relationships that we could bring to support an existing local business while inviting foreign investment.”

Lassiter said he also spoke with representatives for another European project and they were interested enough in Danville-Boyle County that they gave Lassiter an RFI — a request for information. That RFI could provide the company with more specifics about the area’s workforce and possible sites for a business, for example.

Lassiter said he will be working with the company’s Hamburg office on the RFI and if Danville-Boyle has a suitable, smaller industrial building available, “they would be here late summer or early fall.”

“From the prospecting side of it, this was probably one of the best years ever (for the summit) for ready-to-go projects (for Kentucky),” Lassiter said. “… A Mexican manufacturing project basically said, ‘Please tell us where we can go.’ You love it when you get that opportunity.”

Norfolk Southern rail site

An undeveloped site along Norfolk Southern’s rail line in Danville remains one of the properties with the most potential for attracting major business projects, Lassiter told members of the EDP board Wednesday. But it requires a very large investment in site development and roads before it would really catch the eye of foreign investors, he said.

“To go see it, you’re going to have to get on a four-wheeler,” Lassiter said. “And our friends from across the waters east or west, they want to see the road in, the curb and gutter in, potentially, the water and sewer to the site.

“So that’s a real shortcoming Norfolk Southern is well aware of, and that’s why we need to continue to improve that site because we get a lot of hits because there’s not a lot of quality rail sites around the state.”

Access points for the property could be built from the Danville bypass at the current intersection with Stewarts Lane, or off of North Stewarts Lane near Wilderness Trace Child Development Center. The North Stewarts Lane option would involve construction of a bridge, which would be a “big-ticket item,” Lassiter said. He pegged the possible cost to develop the site at between $1 million and $2 million at a minimum.

The EDP budget for 2019-20, which was approved Wednesday, includes $25,000 for planning and design work, in order to figure out what could be done to make the site project-ready.

“This is obviously not anywhere near the funding to actually do anything,” Treasurer Alan Turbyfill said. “This would be money used for engineering studies, prep work — figuring out what to do, not paying for what to do … this probably would not be enough to actually complete a project like that but we feel like it’s important to keep this on the table since that is some of the most prime industrial development land that we have.”